Red squirrels are rare in Wales. The main populations are on Anglesey, in Clocaenog forest and in mid-Wales, but there are a few other sites that still have red squirrels. The red squirrel is threatened by the non-native grey squirrel, through disease (the squirrelpox virus) and competition for food.
The Red Squirrel Conservation Plan for Wales was published in 2009 and sets out the action required to safeguard these remaining red squirrel populations. In 2018 the Wales Squirrel Forum undertook a review of the action under the plan and refreshed the objectives and actions.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) gives full protection to red squirrels under Schedule 5. For Schedule 5 species, the following are offences:
- Intentionally taking, killing or injuring
- Intentionally / recklessly damaging or destroying its place of shelter / protection
- Intentionally / recklessly disturbing it whilst occupying its place of shelter / protection
- Intentionally / recklessly obstructing access to its place of shelter / protection
- Sale, or offering / exposing for sale
It is also listed on Schedule 6, which prohibits certain methods of capture and killing, which are specified in Section 11. These include using the following:
- Any trap or snare, electrical device or poisonous / stupefying substances
- Any net
- Any automatic or semi-automatic weapon
- Any device for illuminating a target / sighting device
- Any dazzling device
- Any gas or smoke
- Any sound recording as a decoy
- Any mechanically propelled vehicle
If you are setting traps to catch pest species (such as grey squirrels), or under a licence from Natural Resources Wales (NRW), we advise you to read the following guidance notes: ‘Incidental trapping of Schedule 5 and Schedule 6 animals’ and ‘’Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Relevant Sections’.
If you wish to carry out surveys / research on red squirrels that would involve offences under this legislation, you must apply for a licence from NRW. See ‘Squirrel Licensing’ for further information.
Grey squirrels were brought to Britain from North America. They are listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which makes it illegal to release them or allow them to escape into the wild. If you trap a grey squirrel, you must not release it into the wild. Grey squirrels may be humanely dispatched.
If you are trapping grey squirrels in an area where red squirrels are present, you must take steps to ensure that red squirrels are not inadvertently trapped, and take appropriate bio-security measures to prevent the spread of disease from grey squirrels to reds.